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Director Displacement
"It was nothing but producers then. Sam Goldwyn..." Willy started to wheeze at the name. "The Goldwyn touch. That's what his publicity people called his picture. His pictures? Finally, I said to him, "Sam, has there ever been a picture with the Goldwyn touch that I didn't direct?"
Gore Vidal (quoting William Wyler), Palimpsest

When a work - usually a film - is better known as the work of its producer than as the work of its director. Often a result of marketing, as the name of a well-known producer may be used prevalently in advertising a film where the director is a rookie or largely unknown. In some cases, the director can also be displaced by the screenwriter if the writer is well-known (and neither the producers nor director are). More rarely, all of these can be displaced by an actor if the movie is seen as a star-vehicle.

This trope tends to happen more in America than elsewhere due to Hollywood being a very producer-focused system, as opposed to other countries where directors get much more clout.

Examples:

  • Pretty much everything Ray Harryhausen ever worked on.
  • Poltergeist was directed by Tobe Hooper, but most people think of it as a Steven Spielberg film.
    • To the point where it was rumored that Spielberg was the real director. Given that he was busy with ET at the time, these rumors are unfounded; nonetheless, they basically ruined Hooper's career.
      • Spielberg was on set for much of the production (and even saved actor Oliver Robbins' life when the clown prop nearly choked him to death). And Hooper was battling a cocaine addiction at the time, so he likely needed someone on set to keep an eye on him. Spielberg also came up with the story, wrote the screenplay and was the major producer, also taking part in the post-production. He said that he and Hooper had a very special relationship, as he had a lot of input.
  • The Goonies was directed by Richard Donner but was produced by Spielberg. As an adventure starring children in the lead roles, it does seem typical of early-80s Spielberg movies.
  • Gremlins was directed by Joe Dante and produced by Steven Spielberg, but it is commonly thought to have been directed by Spielberg himself.
  • Anything Judd Apatow has produced (but not directed).
  • Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas - actually directed by Henry Selick. Burton merely produced it.
    • ...which helped confuse people fifteen years later when Selick's Coraline was being advertised. The marketing stated correctly that it was from the director of Nightmare. Because of the earlier muddled marketing of Nightmare, people mistakenly assumed Coraline was a Tim Burton film (in reality, Burton had precisely nothing to do with it). It got to the point where Neil Gaiman had to address this in his blog.
      • This was probably intentional by the Marketing Team since Tim Burton's name pretty much sells to his own little niche, whereas the only people who have heard of Henry Selick tend to be hardcore animation fans.
    • Tim Burton also got this with the releases of James and the Giant Peach and 9. He served as a producer for both films, along with Timur Bekmambetov on the latter.
  • The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi are viewed as George Lucas's works (and they are, in a way), but they were directed by Irvin Kershner and Richard Marquand, respectively. However, this has been less true of Empire in recent years; Lucas had a very hands-off role in its production, leaving those duties to Kershner and producer Gary Kurtz. In the wake of the prequel trilogy, his critics have been fond of pointing out that the movie he had the least creative involvement with is also considered the best.
    • Return of the Jedi is even more contested. After Empire going WAY over budget and schedule, Lucas decided to be part of Jedi. He was on set for the whole film and some say his relationship with director Marquand was at points bad (to the extent that original DP Alan Hume is said to have quit the last week in protest) and there are talks about how he wanted credit as a second unit director for it.
    • The Star Wars Holiday Special is frequently blamed on George Lucas, even though he had nothing to do with it beyond writing a basic story outline for CBS.
    • For that matter, Lucas gets most of the blame for Howard the Duck (Willard Huyck), Willow (Ron Howard), and Radioland Murders (Mel Smith); he executive produced all three and did come up with the stories for the latter two, but he didn't write the scripts or direct them.
  • With the exception of The Shining, which everybody knows as the work of Stanley Kubrick, all of the films based on Stephen King novels are more popularly associated with him than their directors. Unsurprising if you look at what happens to his novels...
    • With that in mind it makes one wonder how The Langoliers isn't commonly affiliated with its director considering the DVD cover where, in massive outlined, metallic letters, the name of Tom Holland can be seen clear as day, taking over two-thirds of the credits.
  • More people associate District 9 with Peter Jackson than with Neill Blomkamp.
  • Victor Fleming is the credited director of both Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, but they each went through several different directors and are now mostly remembered as the work of their producers: David O. Selznick for Gone With The Wind and Mervyn LeRoy for The Wizard of Oz.
  • The primary creative force behind Casablanca was producer Hal B. Wallis, and not director Michael Curtiz.
  • Val Lewton produced a series of classic horror films for RKO in the 1940s (Cat People, I Walked With A Zombie, The Leopard Man, The Curse Of The Cat People, The Body Snatcher, Isle Of The Dead, The Seventh Victim and Bedlam). These are almost universally referred to as 'Val Lewton films' rather than being referred to by their directors names.
  • Hero (Zhang Yimou) and Hostel (Eli Roth) were both marketed as "Quentin Tarantino Presents (film name)", owing to his production role in those films although in the case Hero his role was limited to "presenting" it to the US audience.
  • Cloverfield is more commonly associated with J. J. Abrams than its director, Matt Reeves.
  • Nimrod Antal directed Predators, not Robert Rodriguez
  • Michael Bay has had this happen a lot in recent years, being the producer of horror remakes like Friday the 13th (2009). He's also been announced as producing the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot; Jonathan Liebesman is directing. In spite of this, many people often point any flaws present in these films as attributed to him, despite not actually being the director.
  • Thomas Edison had a habit of putting his name, and only his name, in the films he produced.
  • From Dusk Till Dawn was directed by Robert Rodriguez not Quentin Tarantino. The same goes for Planet Terror.
  • The Dilemma was directed by Ron Howard but you would think that Vince Vaughn was the driving force of the film (seeing how it looks like a lot of Vaughn's other films).
  • The James Cameron-produced film Sanctum was directed by a first-time director from Australia but many are convinced that Cameron actually directed the film. This has created the same amount of Hatedom that Avatar suffered.
  • If you talk about the earlier films in the Disney Animated Canon, nearly everybody in the world will think about Walt Disney. Only hardcore animation fans know the names of the actual directors (Walt himself rarely directed cartoons and never directed any of the movies). Since the Disney Renaissance, however, this changed. Directors like Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise or Ron Clements & John Musker have at least SOME name recognition.
    • It didn't help matters that when much of the early Disney animated films were released, they were generally made by a team of segment directors under the command of a supervising director, who was himself answerable to Walt. Under that system, each segment director would direct a single portion of the film, and then report back to the supervising director so he could edit all the portions into a single, cohesive film.
  • The James Bond films are rarely ever viewed as the works of anyone other than Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, and later Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli.
  • Howard Deutch directed Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful, but they're viewed as John Hughes films (Hughes was the screenwriter).
    • Likewise, this also applies to the four theatrically released National Lampoons Vacation films, which were respectively directed by Harold Ramis, Amy Heckerling, Jeremiah S. Chechik, and Stephen Kessler.
    • In addition, it applies to the first three Home Alone films, which were directed by Chris Columbus (1&2) and Raja Gosnell (3).
  • Jon Favreau wrote and starred in Swingers, and then went on to direct a number of other films, including its Spiritual Successor Made, but it was Doug Liman who actually directed Swingers.
    • Which in a way is unfair to Favreau, since the main problem with Swingers is the directing. All of Favreau's directorial projects have been better directed than that film (and possibly every film directed by Doug Liman).
  • Some movies that had more than one director tend to get this, especially if one of the directors is more well-known than the other. These examples include:
  • Tyler Perry's Diary of a Mad Black Woman was directed by Darren Grant, but many people believed that Perry directed it himself.
  • John Lasseter is given sole director credit on Cars 2 despite the fact that he was brought in midway through production to replace original director Brad Lewis (who was fired due to lackluster material). Lewis still gets a separate co-director credit though.
    • This has more to do with Director's Guild laws though, as only one director is allowed credit on a film unless you are an established directing team (which is why it took so long for the Coen Brothers to get directing credit for both).
    • Regarding Lasseter, the quality of the Disney Canon films after the Pixar merger has been at least partially attributed to his influence as Chief Creative Officer of Disney Animation Studios, despite his role mainly being that of executive producer.
  • The Muppets: The film seems better known for its writing from Jason Segel than Director James Bobin. This partly seems due to the fact that as a professed Muppet fan, he had the ambition of bringing them to the forefront again.
  • The Cabin in the Woods was co-written and produced by Joss Whedon, but the actual director was Drew Goddard (who was also the other co-writer).
  • Though the director of the infamous film The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure was a documentary filmmaker named Matthew Diamond, the real brainchild behind the film was Kenn Viselmann, whose Small Name, Big Ego was so rampant that he even named the movie's production company after himself (despite no one really knowing who he was).
  • Austin Powers is better known as the work of Mike Meyers, who wrote and starred in the films, than Jay Roach, who directed.
  • Due to the success of The Dark Knight Saga, many people assume Christopher Nolan has a great deal of control over the Superman reboot Man of Steel. In reality, he's just the film's producer, and has said his direct involvement ended pretty much at the stage of story development because he knew director Zack Snyder was more suited to the Superman material than he was.
  • Gentlemen of Fortune is often viewed as Georgi Danelia movie, but the actual director was much lesser-known Aleksandr Seryj. Georgi Danelia was a co-writer and art director.
  • The 50s' classic The Thing from Another World was officially directed by Christian Nyby, but is often seen as Producer Howard Hawks's film. How directly Hawks was involved in production has long been debated, even by people who actually worked on the film.
  • Red Tails was directed by Anthony Hemingway but is often thought of as being directed by George Lucas.
  • Though it was directed by David Fincher, many still see The Social Network as Aaron Sorkin's movie
  • The Bob Dylan documentary No Direction Home is a messy case. Martin Scorsese is credited as director, and most people just assume he was the driving force behind it. But it was actually Dylan's longtime manager Jeff Rosen who instigated the project and conducted and filmed the interviews and gathered the raw footage. Scorsese's job was to assemble everything into a finished film. Rosen is credited as a co-producer.

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